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Ancient City of Thebes Egypt

The Ancient City of Thebes Egypt - Egypt Tours Portal

Thebes is the ancient Egyptian Kingdom that holds the historical and cultural essence of the oldest civilization ever created in the history of mankind. This Article's main goal is to showcase all the all information and details about the legendary city of Thebes. This article was written by a group of very knowledgeable and professional historians, scholars, and tour guides who have decades of experience across the heavenly lands of Egypt. Thebes is one of the most majestic cities in the world is the ancient city of Thebes Egypt, which was used to be the capital of Egypt during parts of the Middle Kingdom (2040 to 1750 B.C.) and as the main capital during Egypt new kingdom (1570-1069 BCE) from the 11th dynasty to the 18th dynasty. The ancient city of Thebes was built to honor the divine, the living, and the dead, plus immortalize the heritage and legacy of the greatest civilization the world has ever known for many future generations.  

Thebes Location

Thebes lay on either side of the Nile River at approximately 26° N latitude. It is located east of the Nile River about 800 Km (500 Mi) south of the Mediterranean Sea and 675 Km (419 Mi) south of modern Cairo. Thebes used to consist of the two cities of Luxor and Aswan. The main part of the city was known to be located along the Nile’s east bank, and Along the west bank was the necropolis, or “city of the dead,” an area filled with the royal tombs and mortuary temples that still existed today. Thebes had about 40,000 inhabitants in 2000 BC and by 1500 BC, Thebes had grown to with a population of about 75,000 to be the largest city in the world at that time. The city of Thebes was considered to be a cult center, a hub for religious activities, and the home of Luxor’s best monuments like the temples of the Karnak, Luxor, and Valley of the Kings where the heart and soul of the ancient Egyptian culture are immortalized.

Thebes Name 

Thebes was known as Wase or Wo’se that means "the city" or Nowe or Nuwe plus Usast or Waset which means the southern city. It was the center of worship of the god Amun the creator God as it was known as P-Amen or Pa-Amen which means "the abode of Amen". Amon was merged with the sun god Re to become the supreme god "Amun-Re" who stood on top of the Egyptian Pantheon. The Greeks named the city “Thebai” which was deprived of Ta-ope (The Ancient Name of Luxor) which was based & used by the famous Greek Poet Homer who believed that “Thebes with Hundred Gates” exists in Egypt.

Thebes was called “Nō,” in the Bible from the ancient Egyptian word "Niw" which means “city.” The Egyptians had many nicknames for Thebes: “City Victorious,” City of the Lord of Eternity,” “The Mysterious City,” “Mistress of Might,” Mistress of Temples,” and others. Thebes' modern name “Luxor,” is derived from the Arabic al-Uqsur, which means “the castles,” which in turn may derive from the Latin word “castra,” which means a military garrison.

More than sixty annual festivals were celebrated in Thebes, some of the most important festivals among these include the Feast of Opet, the Khoiak (Festival), the festival of the valley, the Festival of I Shemu, and the Festival of II Shemu. The city's most important festival was the Festival of Opet & Shemu. The site became a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1979 and is famous for being one of the most visited places in Egypt and home of some amazing temples such as (Karnak temple, Luxor temple, Valley of the kings and many more), tombs of famous kings & nobles and artifacts from the different periods of ancient Egypt.

History of Thebes

The history of the city goes way back to Egypt old Kingdom when Thebes was the capital of “Waset” of Upper Egypt’s fourth nomes (Districts). Most of the earliest monuments are from the 11th dynasty (2081-1939 BC) and by the 12th dynasty (1938-1756 BC) the capital of Egypt was Memphis and Thebes was under the control of Foreign invaders called the Hyksos. But the city was freed by King Ahmose and the Hyksos were driven out between (1530-1520 BC). Ahmose I reclaimed the lands formerly ruled by them, and Thebes was celebrated as the city which had liberated the country of Egypt and was declared as the main capital of Egypt.

The glorious history of Thebes started in the 18th dynasty when the city became the official capital and the worship center for the Theban Triad of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu who would be worshiped in the city for centuries. It was entirely rebuilt using the great wealth acquired from the great expeditions to the land of Nubia and Asia. The momentum of prosperity reached an extreme elevation in the 14th century during the reign of Amenhotep III where the temples of Amon were drowning in extravagant materials, so it came to no one’s surprise when Akhenaton "Amenhotep IV" (1353-1336 BC) attempted to force monotheism in the shape of Atonism (the worship of the only god Aton) but he miserably failed, his actions led to the disturbance of the entire city for many years. Reconstruction of the city began by Tutankhamen (1333-1323 BC) to the highest level of elegance & prestige, both Seti I (1290-1279 BC) and Ramses II (1279-1213 BC) built many temples and enlarged the city as much as they can.

Ramesses II moved the capital from Thebes to a new site near the city of Avaris called Per-Ramesses but in the 7th century BCE, Thebes became a capital again by Nubian pharaoh Tatanami who want to restore the glory of the past. At the near end of the new kingdom, the city Thebes fell into darkness as the government fell, the economical atmosphere began to crumble and the priests of Amon held all the power in the worst times in the history of the city of Thebes. It was conquered by Assyrians under Ashurbanipal in 666 BC, then by Persians, and later by the Romans and finally by in 640 CE by the  Arab invasion of Egypt who name the temple complex at Thebes `Karnak'.

Monuments of Thebes

Thebes can be divided into two sections which represent all the attractions of Upper Egypt:

Eastern Thebes: 

  • Great Temple of Amun at Karnak
  • Luxor Temple
  • Temple of Khonsu
  • Precinct of Mut
  • Precinct of Montu
  • Avenue of the Sphinxes

Western Thebes:

  • Village of Deir el-Medina
  • Ramesseum
  • Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III
  • Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
  • Mortuary Temple of Seti I
  • Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III
  • Valley of the Kings
  • Valley of the Queens
  • Tombs of the Nobles

The Greek poet Homer mentioned Egypt in his writings as "In Egyptian Thebes, the heaps of precious ingots gleam, the hundred-gated Thebes". The city of Thebes (modern-day Luxor) is one of the world’s biggest and most famous tourist destinations due to the infinite number of great temples and glorious monuments located within the legendary Theban Necropolis. Most of the famous attractions in the city were built during the New Kingdom by the hands of Egypt’s greatest rulers.

One of the main attractions is the incredible Valley of the Kings & Valley of the Queens that acted as the final resting place of many King and Queens. There is also the biggest house of worship during ancient times the Karnak temple which was built in (2055 BCE) to honor the creator god Amon his wife Mut goddess of justice and their son the moon god Khnosu among other famous gods like the goddess of love, beauty and joy Hathor, the crocodile god of the Nile Sobek, and the sky falcon god of victory and protection Horus. The popularity of these gods led directly to Thebes' development, influence, wealth, power, and status. The Karnak Temple Complex continued to grow in size, allure, and grandeur over the next 2,000 years, that's why it remains the largest religious structure ever built in the world.

We can’t talk about the mortuary temples of Thebes without mentioning the enchanting temple of Hatshepsut one of the most preserved ancient temples in the history of Egypt. There is also the guardian of Thebes the breathtaking Colossi of Memnon. There are also a number of temples dedicated to many pharaohs who desire to immortalize their own legacy like the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Abu Simbel which detailed his victory at the battle of Kadesh (1275 BC) which is Ramses II biggest achievement. Most of the temples also played a vital role in illustrating the religious beliefs, daily life routines through the magical artistic inscriptions on their walls and were a great contributor in providing countless antiquities of one of the most majestic civilizations in the history of humanity.

Travel to Egypt and enjoy one of our stunning Nile river cruises to witness these temples and monuments accompanied by an Egyptologist tour guide.

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